Friday, July 14, 2017

Hyena action shots!!

This might surprise you guys but I actually don’t have too many hyena behavior shots. There is just so much going on in the cars while we are observing that it can be impossible to take photos. But every once in a while when I do manage to get a photograph they turn out to be really spectacular. For this post I thought I would share a few of my favorite photos that I took and explain a little of the behavior behind them.


Hyenas say hello by sniffing each other's phalluses. This might seem weird until you consider how often your dog has their nose in another dog's anus. A greet consists of two hyenas each lifting their leg so that the other can sniff their phallus. 

Bristle Tail:

A bristle tail is a behavior associated with excitement. The tail flips up and fans out to look like bristles. We see them when hyenas are on a carcass, chasing away intruders, patrolling their borders, and in a number of other situations. 

Groan Over:

When a hyena wants to show friendly interest in another hyena, they groan. A lot of times this type of interest is shown to cubs. Here is a picture of one hyena groaning over a cub while it nurses from its mom. I've also attached a recording of a groan (although not the groan from this day).

Play Mount:

Cubs will often jump on each other's backs while playing. Based on a 2007 paper by Tanner, Smale, and Holekamp, male cubs play mount significantly more often than female cubs. This suggests that play mounting is a way to practice mating. 

Play Biting:

Another specific play behavior that we record is play biting. This can appear to be really violent but everyone is just having fun! Probably.


Cubs do this when their mothers are weening them. It's like a little hyena temper tantrum. They pull this strange face and make a truly atrocious noise. Here's a photo and a recording.


Seeing a mating is pretty rare but I was lucky enough to see one! Hyena matings are complicated by the female phallus. A male hyena has to insert his phallus into the female's phallus while balancing on his back legs! It looks like quite the glute workout, honestly.

Ears back and Grin:

Here is two behaviors in one! Both of these are submissive behaviors and in this case were performed in response to an aggression. This hyena is a potential immigrant male being chased off by a few settled immigrants. He is grinning with his ears pinned back next to his head, showing that he is submissive to his attackers. His appeasements didn't move the aggressors and this little guy took a serious beating!

 Lunge and Snap:

This one doesn't need a whole lot of explanation. The hyena on the left lunged and snapped at the hyena in the middle. But incase anyone was worried, the hyena in the middle got his face out of the way just in time. 


1 comment:

Primordace Hyena said...

Excellent notes!

I always wondered what the whining sound persistent cubs made was called. If it even has a name it's not often used. Of all m researching this is the first time I've seen the term in text form!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science